Abellanosa: The naked truth about politics

Fringes and frontiers

NOW that it is election season, politicians are once again putting their best foot forward. Or shall I say: politicians are now trying to wear their most beautiful and deceiving masks. They now package themselves like branded soaps claiming to be better than brand x and y.

I am tempted to think that the electoral process in this country is a mere formality that must be complied. It is a process that is used by the state to legitimate its existence. There is no point romanticizing it as a vehicle of change. I have attended a lot of forums and sessions on elections and social change – all trying to promote good governance.

Looking back, I cannot but say that they were practically useless or of low impact to say the least. Except for some academics who benefited points for the purpose of tenure and re-ranking, “seriously”, efforts and attempts to rationalize what ought to be changed in the way politics is transacted in this country, are to some extent exercises in futility.

If not for the fact that taxation is mandatory, I am beginning to think that there is no more point voting. The so-called sovereignty of the people is a legal fiction we inherited from political philosophers like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rosseau who tried to rationalize and justify the pre-existing reality of political obligation. The framers of our constitution probably thought that the concept of sovereignty is a condition without which constitutional democracy would not make any sense, and thus considered it a “given” to the political equation.

Confronted, however, with the realities of patronage, dynastic and bossist politics, can we still profess and believe that democracy is alive and vibrant? Can we truly say that the Filipino people as a collective, is where sovereignty comes from or resides? Isn’t it better to speak of the “masses” as “multitudes” of “warm bodies” that have been conceptualized and re-conceptualized time and again, used and re-used by politicians in order to let appear that their power is sanctioned by the populace.

Philippine elections is a hundred times more distressing than a lunchtime experience where one is offered a menu of courses with nothing palatable to choose from. And when one starts to choose what is at least “arang-arang” it is also not available. The duty to vote is like the need to eat anything even what is most tasteless or rotten, or else die of hunger.

No words can exactly capture how morally bankrupt Philippine society is. Ours is a body politic devoid of social justice. Thus, we cannot but describe our condition, borrowing the words of Saint Augustine, as a band of robbery masquerading itself as a legitimate political system.

I went through a stage of so much hope and optimism, coming from the books that I read, that the election is a mechanism of change. In the past, I even convinced and pushed students to vote. I am not saying that things are absolutely hopeless, however, there must be a way for us to change and become better other than the usual process of election.

Unless we honestly confront the realities of Philippine politics nothing will ever change in this country. The “demos” in the word democracy shall continue to mean ignorant and stupid masses who are easily and consciously fooled and deceived yet willing to be deceived and fooled all over and over again.


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